Archives for posts with tag: Brisbane

If you love Dumb Things as much as I do you’ll adore Renovator’s Delight, the solo+friends band of Dumb Things guitarist/ vocalist Madeleine Keinonen, who has just released a first album “Bark All Night”. It’s delightfully melodic and jangling guitar pop, and “Head In The Clouds” here could be a long lost Magick Heads song. It’s a beauty. The whole album is.

The phrase “renovator’s delight” is a real estate agent’s euphemism for an old ‘character house’ that has seen better days, requiring re-piling, re-plumbing, new electrics and replacement windows, bathroom kitchen etc. In other words, a money pit. However your commitment of $11 AUD for the digital album or $32 AUD plus postage for the LP of “Bark All Night” is a sound investment. No hard work required here, but many hours of rewarding listening guaranteed.

As with Dumb Things, Renovator’s Delight does the simple stuff exceptionally well. Guitar & bass, drums, Keinonen’s unaffected vocals, and some additional texture from clarinet, violin, and, well, bowed saw of course. As with Dumb Things, Keinonen’s lyrics are observational, slice-of-life stuff, and work with the homespun music and arrangements.

“Bark All Night” seems to display as much of a strong stylistic link to southern New Zealand jangle pop past (Robert Scott and his bands Magick Heads, and The Bats) and present (check the forthcoming album by Jim Nothing if you like your laconic jangling guitar pop served with violin), as there is to the legions of Australian jangling guitar pop icons past and present. Quietly essential.

As bonus content, here’s the video for the opening track “Bucket of Water”:

Brisbane trio The Goon Sax are preparing to release their third album “Mirror II”. Here’s the captivating opening single “In The Stone”:

The Goon Sax are James Harrison, Louis Forster and Riley Jones. Still in high school when they made their first album of awkward teenage guitar pop “Up To Anything” as 17 year olds in 2016, the trio added additional layers of delight with their second album “We’re Not Talking” in 2018.

It’s impossible to tell from just one song what the third album will be like, but the wonderful “In The Stone” may indicate a further development into deeper and darker territory, without losing any of the melodic guitar-pop charm of the first two albums.

Louis Forster is the son of The Go-Betweens Robert Forster. Some of his songs on the 2018 “We’re Not Talking” album (“Sleep EZ” and “We Can’t Win” for example) could’ve been on early Go-Betweens albums. “In The Stone” here may share vampires in common with the lyrics of a Robert Forster Go-Betweens song, but the song is a much darker Post-Punk creation more aligned to the slow cool march of New Order or The Cure.

“Mirror II” is available to pre-order now on Chapter Music in Australia/ NZ and Matador Records in the rest of the world. Here’s the official video for “In The Stone” followed by a live version video:

Mess Esque is a new collaboration between Mick Turner (of The Dirty Three), and Helen Franzmann, who releases music under the name McKisko. The duo’s album “Dream #12” was recorded remotely between Naarm (Melbourne) where Turner lives, and Meanjin (Brisbane) where Franzmann lives, over the course of 2020. The first track shared ahead of the 2 April release is the transcendentally sparse and beautifully fractured lullaby “Big Old Blue”.

“Dream #12” by Mess Esque is the 6th release in a series from Bedroom Suck Records featuring limited LP runs of music made in isolation during the various Covid19 pandemic lockdowns in Australia during 2020, which shut down music performance and collaborations for much of the year.

Mick Turner was writing music that he felt needed lyrics, and the pairing with McKisko (Franzmann) provides the perfect lyrical and vocal foil for the loose tangle of lightly strummed and picked notes of Turner’s typically understated guitar playing style.

It’s possible (or perhaps unavoidable) to imagine Franzmann’s late-night (quite literally) vocals as a hushed and intimate vocal take on the kind of emotionally-charged melodic flight that Warren Ellis’s violin would take were this a Turner tune for The Dirty Three.

“Big Old Blue” takes the combination of guitar and voice and adds further subtle layers of keyboards, minimal drum pulse, and a bit of brass and woodwind relish. It all adds up to something special that is at once low-key and sleepy, while also quietly euphoric, heavenly and moving.

While you are on McKisko’s Bandcamp to listen to Mess Esque, it is well worthwhile exploring the McKisko catalogue too.

Dumb Things

What is it with the endless and effortless supply of gloriously melodic, slightly wonky, low-key-charming, guitar pop emanating from across the ditch in Australia? Just when you think it can’t be possible to discover another band better than the one you found last month, there’s a band like Dumb Things waiting to make you fall for their understated brilliance. It’s hard to pick just one song from their just-released second album to share, but here’s track 7: “Fade Away” to introduce their new album.

Dumb Things are Pat, Maddie, Adam, James, Andy. We will have to guess at their surnames* because they are so low-key I can’t find anything about the band. Maddie takes the lead vocal on half the songs, and I’m not sure who out of Pat, Adam, James or Andy takes the lead vocals on the other songs.

Of course there’s hints of all the other Aussie jangling guitar-pop bands old and new that you love in here. But there’s also a lot on the album “Time Again” that reminds me of US band The Feelies as well.

Maybe it’s because there are three guitarists, two usually doing a slightly different strum texture, rhythm and tone, panned left and right, while the lead guitar picks a simple-but-intricate pattern through the song, and the bass and drums provide momentum without fuss.

And then there’s the vocals, alternating between the aforementioned blokes and Maddie, which are a kind of reserved Australian equivalent to Stephen and Katrina of The Pastels.

No-one sings like they’ve ever had a lesson (thankfully), and everyone sings like they’d rather not be the one who has to do it, which I like a lot. But Maddie can certainly hit, and hold, some ace high notes in those lighter than air harmonies and chorus melodies.

In each song there’s something pleasantly unexpected. On “Fade Away” once you’ve been mesmerised by that intricate woven pattern work of the lead guitar and the gentle rise and fall of Maddie’s vocals, the chorus does that gravity defying descending repetition of “Fade Away” which still catches me by surprise each time I hear the song, lulled in by it’s gentle invitation to eavesdrop.

In other songs on the album the overcast day monotone melancholy of a verse will be miraculously transformed by some angelic chorus vocal harmonies (usually from Maddie) bursting like sunlight through the storm clouds.

There’s a kind of effortless and unfussy busy-minimalism to the way the songs are performed, and arrangements are crafted, and the way the album has been recorded and mixed. It’s more honest than polished, and that suits the songs, the subject matter, and the voices. The songs on the album album also convey a sense of place, and of a time of life for its creators, and of overthinking in the humid heat-induced suburban ennui of sub-tropical Brisbane, Queensland.

It’s all quite wonderful and “Time Again” is an album I’m looking forward to playing a lot this summer.

[*Further sleuthing has revealed the band let their guard down recently and revealed all in a recent interview.]

bent_bandcampThe unholy racket of BeNt comes from Brisbane, a city of surprises. “Bad Beds” opens their new and 2nd album “Snakes and Shapes”.

Among the debris of BeNt’s anarchic approach to post-punk song-craft there’s a lot of bits and pieces reminding me of an unlikely collection of avant-pop adventurers.

Foremost is NZ  avant-pop pioneers The Spies, but there also seems to be trace residue here of experimental approaches by the likes of Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band, Pere Ubu and The Sugarcubes, as well as the somewhat mis-placed (but understandable) Slits & Raincoats comparisons they seem to attract.

There’s some absurdist or Dadaist overtones to some of the content – like spoken interludes – and also some approaches to guitar noise that evoke the spirit of Fred Frith’s ‘Guitar Solos’ at times.

This kind of wilful disregard for form can often lead to all kinds of unlistenable noise, but BeNt have melody and rhythm at their heart and there’s a spirited and playful wide-eyed enthusiasm which keeps the songs fun and engaging.

If you enjoy what you hear on this album check out their action-filled Bandcamp back catalogue for more gems, like “Skeleton Man” here from their 2014 album “non Soon”

Blank Realm

Blank Realm

Day 14 was almost not going to happen… but I’ve pulled myself back from the brink & decided to carry on with this Unofficial Aussie Music Month trawl of trans-Tasman subculture underground pop.

Today let’s get weird & colourful with Blank Realm and ‘Falling Down the Stairs’.

Blank Realm are from Brisbane and (yet) another great band on Bedroom Suck Records. The band has a strong family connection, with siblings Daniel Spencer (drum & vocal), Sarah Spencer (synth & vocal) and Luke Spencer (bass), joined by Luke Walsh on guitar (& production).

Nick at Red Eye Records in Sydney recommended them to me and their latest album ‘Grassed Inn’ was sold to me within about the first 30 seconds of colourful jangling 12-string guitar garage-psych rock. As with so many young Aussie guitar bands at the moment there seems to be a hint of The Clean here in the ‘Tally-Ho!’ style organ on this track in particular and also a Dylan-esque shout of vocals.

The album is great. It is big, colourful, noisy and lush but also quite dark and menacing psych-rock with just enough feral psych weirdness to keep it (really) interesting.